Funeral fuels flames of religious divide in Colorado City

KSL 5 News, Utah/January 7, 2011

Colorado City, Arizona - The small Arizona border town of Colorado City is known for the polygamists who live and worship there. But what isn't as well known is that the town is essentially divided down the middle.

Half of the town remains faithful to former FLDS leader Warren Jeffs, and the other half -- the so-called "apostates" -- have formed their own religious sect. Friction between the two groups boiled over in an ugly incident this week during a little girl's funeral.

It was a terrible accident: A garbage truck crushed a van in Cedar City a few weeks before Christmas, critically injuring Violet Stubbs. Her youngest child, 10-month-old Angel Lee, was killed instantly.

But when it came time to bury Angel Lee, a terrible task was made even more difficult by their neighbors and religious rivals in Colorado City, the followers of Warren Jeffs.

The Stubbs family says the Colorado City Cemetery managers refused to respond to their requests for funeral arrangements even though they owned a burial plot. Finally, a family friend dug the grave himself by hand.

But a short time later, followers of the FLDS Church allegedly filled the grave back up with dirt and insisted Angel Lee be buried in another spot of the cemetery. Violet Stubbs says there was a message in that action.

"We'll segregate you and put you over here because you're not good enough,'" Stubbs said. "We are still entitled to be buried in our family's spot."

The day of the funeral, family and friends dug another grave. Then during the service, heckling began. Warren Jeffs' followers also got in the mourners' faces and took pictures of them.

All of this was fueled, the Stubbs family believes, by religious discrimination because they are no longer followers of Warren Jeffs.

With the tension between the groups as high as it has ever been, Angel Lee's mother hopes this will be the beginning of a compromise between the two religious sects.

"For the FLDS to realize that we still deserve to be there, although we don't believe like they do, but that our children can be buried there too because it's where our grandparents are buried," Stubbs said. "I would just like them to treat us with respect."

The Stubbs family is concerned someone could dig up their daughter's grave and rebury her body in another place in the cemetery. They are hoping this incident sparks a discussion between the two groups and encourages them to get along.

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